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the Complete Review
the complete review - translation

Translating the Garden

M. R. Ghanoonparvar

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To purchase Translating the Garden

Title: Translating the Garden
Author: M. R. Ghanoonparvar
Genre: Translation
Written: 2001
Length: 168 pages
Availability: Translating the Garden - US
Translating the Garden - UK
Translating the Garden - Canada
  • Includes a translation of Shahrokh Meskub's Dialogue in the Garden (see our review)

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Our Assessment:

B : interesting look at the translator at work

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
TLS . 21/6/2002 J. S. Meisami

  From the Reviews:
  • "(T)he book is engaging and will be enjoyed by all those interested in the craft of translation." - Julie Scott Meisami, Times Literary Supplement

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       In Translating the Garden, M.R.Ghanoonparvar allows the reader a close look at the translation-process. Explaining, from beginning to end, much of what went into translating Shahrokh Meskub's Dialogue in the Garden (see our review), Ghanoonparvar offers an interesting behind-the-scenes look at the (re)creation of a text.
       Ghanoonparvar has no illusions about translation:

I also hope to show how and why in practice every translation is inevitably a failure, with occasional moments of success.
       It may seem an odd ambition, but, really, it is the only honest approach to translation.
       The largely monolingual English-speaking world (and America, especially) is too often unaware of what it means for a text to be translated. The example Ghanoonparvar presents is all the more interesting as it comes from a non-European language, and a culture that is, as one might say, particularly foreign (and has become more so over the past two relatively isolated decades). Persia's rich literary tradition is almost entirely unknown in the modern West, and very few English-speaking readers have any awareness of contemporary (and especially post-revolutionary) Iranian literature. What knowledge of Persian-language literature readers might have -- such as the recent rage for Rumi-- possibly distort the picture even further.
       Ghanoonparvar effectively shows that translation not only re-presents a text, it also interprets it. Translation is exegesis; a commentary on the translation in progress even more so. As such, Translating the Garden is very helpful -- and, we would suggest, exemplary. Every translation should be accompanied by such a text !
       For those who want certainty in their texts, Ghanoonparvar offers largely only disillusionment. Choices have to be made, constantly, and even "right" choices may bring negative consequences with them.
       Ghanoonparvar makes readers aware -- almost painfully so -- of the compromises and difficulties faced by the translator. He even cheerily admits to, occasionally, not understanding what the author means. And with simple examples, such as howz (the courtyard pools found in many Persian houses) or "Spanish-tiled roof", he shows how even fairly straightforward concepts can be difficult to properly re-present in a translated text.
       Ghanoonparvar usefully begins with a number of translations of one section of the text by other translators -- showing how varied approaches can be. He then focusses on his own efforts, going through much of the text very closely, explaining certain decisions, as well as different aspects of the original itself.
       There are a variety of difficult choices and odd experiences. At one point he has to deal with a description of a painting:
What I find interesting is that I can actually visualize the painting despite the fact that I do not understand its description.
       If nothing else, Translating the Garden shows what is lost in translation (and what a lot it is !). But it is also a defense of translation.
       Ghanoonparvar doesn't bother too much with theory: it comes up, and some is explained, but his major concern is the practice of translation. He mentions other translators, as well as his students and his own experiences in trying to teach translation. He manages to effectively cover most of the major issues of translation in this way -- and he does so more engagingly than an abstract, theoretical work could.

       Again: we wish every translation came with such a 'translator's note'. An interesting work, certainly recommended for anyone interested in translation (and everyone who reads literature in translation should be interested in the subject), as well as those interested in modern Iranian literature.

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Translating the Garden: M. R. Ghanoonparvar: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Mohammad R. Ghanoonparvar teaches at the University of Texas at Austin. He has translated extensively from the Persian into English.

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